Two government job offers - how to consider?
February 18, 2020 1:10 AM   Subscribe

I got a final government job offer (this was 5 months after my tentative offer) and start in 3 weeks. However, I just got a tentative job offer last week for another position - can anyone help in terms of how I could think through this situation?

Around October I got an interview for a federal job and was offered a tentative offer shortly afterwards. It's taken about 5 months for the process to go through and for my final offer to come through along with a start date - I start in three weeks. However, while this process was on-going I interviewed for another government position I had applied to in November. The interview was on the phone in late January and then received a tentative job offer last week. I am completely taken off guard, as I already resigned from my private sector job a while ago, and my last day will be soon coming to an end.

The perplexing part is that I didn't get an in person interview only a phone interview for this 2nd job offer, and the phone interview was brief and to the point that I couldn't really get a handle on what I would be doing on a day to day basis. I assumed, I would be screened for another round, but when I received the online offer I was shocked and dumbfounded.

Moreover, I am already slated to be done with my current position and start my new job. If I even wanted to carry through with the process of actively considering this 2nd job offer (which is tentative, not even the final offer) - I would have to probably wait several more months. This would then amount to me having to let HR know that I started a new job, and then quit in a short amount of time - being a detriment to my resume.

I know I need to call HR and find out more information about the job position, but if anyone has anything else to offer me in terms of how to think about the whole matter, would be appreciated. I just don't think these kinds of opportunities come around often, and yet now I find myself in some kind of sticky mess of having to figure out what to make of all this.

1. Should I go through with my current plans of continuing with my 1st job offer - until I get a final offer from this 2nd job? How would I explain all this to my 1st job offer if I did decide to accept the 2nd job offer? (looks like they spent a lot of time and effort getting me on board).
2. Has anyone been hired for a full time government position with no in person interview?? I find this really strange.
3. Is there anyway I could communicate to HR that I got a job offer for a different agency and that their background check would perhaps entail requiring an updated resume.
4. Additional thoughts??

If anyone has gone through something similar, any help would be appreciated. Thank you~
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would be wary of a job offer that came with no in-person interview.

That would indicate to me that they don't run their department with attention to due process (which would benefit both them and you). I would also be asking myself in what other ways they ignore due process and standard operating procedure in normal day-to-day operations.

Plus, an in-person interview is for your benefit as well. Denying you the opportunity to assess who you will be working with, and the work conditions, is not something I'd feel comfortable with.
posted by purplesludge at 1:37 AM on February 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

Also--if you do decide to accept the first job and then quit right away, you can leave the first job off your resume if you were only there for a few months.
posted by purplesludge at 1:39 AM on February 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

At my US government job, we hire people on phone interviews all the time. We don't do in-person interviews. The thinking is that it's expensive to pay for out-of-towners to travel in to interview, but we want to look at all candidates on a level playing field, so we phone interview everyone. I have even applied to a promotion within my own office, and at interview time, I drive home and call in, to make my interview experience as equal as possible to all the other candidates.

Not every agency takes a long time to give a final offer, particularly if you've by now passed a background check. If you decide to keep pursuing job 2, ask them what the hiring process timeline is. You could get a final offer before March.
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 1:55 AM on February 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

Now that you've been given a tentative offer, you can ask if you can speak with your future supervisor face-to-face, and interview them ;)
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 2:23 AM on February 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I work for the government and I assist with hiring. Are the two jobs paying the same? If not, you can show the higher job offer letter to the lower paying agency and they will likely match that salary. We do that all the time.

Different agencies have different HR policies, and that makes it hard to say there's a "way" the government does it. Best of luck!
posted by kinsey at 3:23 AM on February 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

You don't have enough information. couldn't really get a handle on what I would be doing on a day to day basis. Ask to visit and meet with the supervisor and possibly other staff so you can make a proper decision.
posted by theora55 at 5:53 AM on February 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Seconding sdrawkcaSSAb - it's COMPLETELY normal to hire without an in person interview for government jobs. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't get more information for yourself to make a decision, but it doesn't mean that aren't running their office well, as it would be more likely to indicate in the private sector. Government hiring has a lot of rules, some good, some detrimental, and can result in some weird stuff.
posted by sillysally at 6:39 AM on February 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I know government agencies often just do phone interviews, but I wouldn't give up a bird in the hand for a job where I'd never met the people, especially where they seemed vague about job duties.
posted by praemunire at 8:11 AM on February 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

I would personally have reservations about a position where there was a screening interview but no follow up with the team you would be working with. I'd hesitate to accept a position without that second interview where you learn more about the position and team.
posted by crunchy potato at 10:19 AM on February 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Allow me to be the first to say that the honorable thing to do would be to show up for the job you have already accepted and plan to spend some time there to see how you fit and how you do.
posted by megatherium at 7:05 PM on February 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Are these federal jobs? Everyone knows the timescale involved in the hiring process. It's completely normal to have this happen. If you're looking for a federal job you're going to apply for a ton of positions and they're going to resolve at very different times.

If the formally offered position doesn't require a move, take it, work it, see how it fits. If it requires a move, you've got more to think about. If you think you want the second position more, go ahead and play out that offer as well. You can do this while working the first one. When/if they get around to making a formal offer, you can make a decision then.

Leaving one federal position for another in short order isn't ideal, but no one (maybe outside of the panel that did the work on the first hire) will hold it against you. Being a fed is the job. If you move agencies/offices, it's not really a new job. All feds familiar with hiring know how the game works. This happens every hiring cycle. Just give it your all wherever you end up and you'll be fine.

Specifically to your questions:

1. Yes, take the job if you want it. If you decide later to take job 2, just tell job 1. There's nothing special about it. They did spend a lot of time getting you onboard, but that's the way it goes. You don't owe them anything unless you sign something stating otherwise (Are they moving you? If not they probably won't require anything.).

2. Yes. Of the half-dozen positions I've held from intern to branch chief, I've interviewed in person one time, to be an intern.

3. If you're interested in the tentative offer, email/call whoever interviewed you and say something like, "I have a formal offer with XYZ but am still very interested in being considered for the ABC position we discussed. Do you know the timeline for a formal offer?" They might prioritize getting you on-boarded. The fact that your package has already gone through everything for the first position may make life easier for the HR folks on this second one (depending on where and who the jobs are with).

All of the preceding assumes you're not talking about two jobs in the same small building in Mule Lick, Idaho, where you're going to be looking at the people hiring both positions every day. That might be a little more sensitive.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2020

Take the offer that came in full. Tentative offers are usually only tentative until the candidates chosen all reply and it will be then that the tentative offer turns into full hired status or mysteriously vanishes. Your onboarding instructions should have come with the offer and the time and place to do orientation. If they didnt accompany the offer you call the number on the human resources email and even if the name you see in your email doesnt answer tell whoever does answer where to go for processing. Dont let them jerk you around. The tentative offer is too unpredictable and no chain of command exists for tentative offers. Look in the phone book or Google the local chapter of the federal agency's employee union and ask for the hiring protocol.
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 5:53 AM on February 20, 2020

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